Saturday, 22 September 2012

Issue #24: What exactly is in Whiskas these days?

Two blogs in one week is a feat not seen here since last year’s new 52, but I thought I’d take advantage of the last moments of my time off work.  I really wanted to do something a bit special, but ended up just reading comics and playing NHL 13 and Borderlands 2.  And I regret nothing.

Swamp Thing #12   Why is there another fucking talking cat in my comic?  This issue sees Swamp Thing cross over with everyone’s darling of the issue ones, Animal Man.  Everyone’s darling except me.  I’ll just sacrifice a little street cred here and say I thought Animal Man’s initial premise was boring and the artwork looked shit (yep, I said it).  Readers of Animal Man have informed me from early on that this crossover was inevitable, and now it’s here I’m not impressed at all.  See, as I don’t read Animal Man I have very little understanding of the relevance of almost every character in this book, and to make things that little bit shittier this issue is actually a second part of a story that begins in Animal Man #12.  Which I don’t read.  Now it’s no secret that publishers attempt these kinds of crossovers to tempt you into buying a title you don’t read in the hopes you might like what you see and stick with it.  Not me though.  DC did this to me with Superboy for months, and not only did I not start collecting Teen Titans, but Superboy is on the fucking chopping block.  And so is Swamp Thing.  Like most people I have a limited budget, and can’t afford more titles, but I do ponder if the grass might be greener in another title like oh, I dunno…. Green Lantern or Wonder Woman, or something else from Marvel, and that one of these might be money better spent.  Anyway I’ve still got Swamp Thing #0 to read, and it’ll be make or fucking break I can tell you.

Swamp Thing #0   This issue at least reminds me of what I liked about Swamp Thing in the first place, that at it’s heart it’s a great horror book, and the story’s most chilling moment is in this issue, where Arcane, in the grotesque form of a brain and face atop a large hand crawls on to the face of a sleeping baby and murders it.  In fact, Arcane’s murder spree through time is more or less what this one is all about, and I could go for more of this, but Swamp Thing seems to be going in a more fantasy/horror direction when I’d really rather see it echo Scott Snyder’s other scary book, Severed, and be a more straight up horror story.  This one almost turned me around, but I think I need to drop this book and just ask around for where to get the kind of fix I’m really after.  Sorry Swamp Thing, we’re done.

Detective Comics #0   Holy shit, there’s a good one in the bunch!  Two stories here and they’re both worth your money.  The main story shows a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne training in the Himalayas with a sensei and his wife.  His humanity is in danger of being trained out of him, as he is told that all attachment is weakness.  There’s one final lesson for Bruce to learn, but I’ll stay spoiler free and just say I really liked this one.  The second story, though much shorter, I liked even more.  Alfred is custodian to the Wayne mansion in Bruce’s absence, as a businessman pressures him to sell the property.  Alfred remains faithful that Bruce will return and refuses.  When Bruce does return, he tells Alfred he has been training, and begins to explain a grand plan he has for the future.  The whole Bruce-away-training thing is a great story hook that worked in Batman Begins and works well in the continuity reset (of sorts) now.  This part of Batman is ripe for good stories and I hope to see more.

Supergirl #0   With Supergirl’s origin story pretty much ignored in the first twelve issues, the zero issue presents a good enough opportunity as any to tell it.  Told mainly from Zor-El’s perspective, we see his final day’s efforts put into the preservation of Argo City from the coming disaster, and his scheme to save his daughter’s life.  There’s isn’t much on offer that’s not already common knowledge, but just as I was about to dismiss this one as boring, a few panels throw a spanner in the works and may just lead to a small reward for my efforts in reading all the Super-titles: Superboy appears in a few panels to set up a future story where somehow Superboy transcends time and space to witness the final days of Krypton!  Not a great issue by any stretch, but this little inclusion is enough to keep me interested in Superboy into 2013, and this is what I’d prefer to see crossover-wise from DC, characters from the books I’m already reading so I can get the most out of what’s going on.

Justice League #0   Lots of Shazam.  A little bit of Pandora.  One panel of the Phantom Stranger.  For an issue of Justice League there sure is a lack of the Justice League.  To be fair, this story continues the Shazam story that has featured as the second story in this book since issue #7, and it’s been pretty good too.  Secondly, with Green Lantern announcing he has better shit to do in space and quitting, there’s a Shazam-sized space on the team that needs filling.  So while Cyborg, The Flash and those other heroes might not be present this time, it’s likely tying up Shazam’s intro before #13 is important to the regular Justice League reader.  Those uninitiated with the League looking for a jump on point might want to grab #12 over this though, which despite being the close of an arc, still arms the reader with the right ammo for what’s approaching.

While I wait for some more zeroes to come I have about a year's worth of Venom to catch up on.  Have fun in the meantime, kids!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Issue #23: Zero respect for your market?

My last post gained a monumental amount of traffic due in no small part to my link to Top Shelf and the fantastic  "What Am I Going To Do Without You?"by Patt Kelley linking back to my humble blog in kind.  I loved this book so much it kind of made me look down my nose at the stuff I usually read to the point I didn’t really feel like writing about it.  Fuck you Secret Avengers!  Come back when you can make me cry!  Seriously though, the lack of emotional response from what I’ve read since (which has been quite a lot) did sap my motivation for writing reviews, and how exactly do I follow up my most popular post ever?  Well, perhaps by getting shitty about DC’s zero month.

For those not aware, DC has decided to postpone 52 issue #13s to release 52 issue #0s instead.  At first this seemed like an innocent enough gimmick aimed at collectors like myself, and I considered buying the lot as companion pieces to my entire 52 #1s, even if every single cover looked bland as shit.  What could possibly go wrong?

I ran this by Troy at All Star Comics.  “Are you sure?” was the response.  Here was a guy who knows all about my new DC love, and who stands to gain financially from this transaction, urging me to perhaps rethink my decision. 
I ran it past my bud Ty, who also went for all 52 of the 52, and who likewise responded as if I’d proposed streaking at a boxing match with, “really?”.
Sandwiched with doubt, week one of zero month arrived, and I was feeling regretful, but having ordered these titles didn’t want to put the store out by cancelling last minute…… um, unless that was okay?  I called All Star Comics to cancel Batwoman and Batwing anyway (long negative rant for another day), this time Mitch took my call and cancelled these two books for me, before chucking in something along the lines of, “you don’t really want every single zero issue, do you?”.  No Mitch, as I think back to shit like Legion Lost, Legion Of Superheroes and that fucking G.I. Combat thing I realise I really, REALLY FUCKING DON’T and if it’s all cool I’ll just stick with my regular titles please.  The universe thrice warned me to steer clear and it was good advice because as it turns out even my regular titles left me wanting for the most part.  So thanks guys, for pulling a madman back from the abyss.  Heroes all.

My problem with it is this: someone at DC sees a chance to slightly repackage their product after their huge repackaging last year, probably in another bid to win new readership.  Now I can't fault that concept, because the new 52 was a great avenue for me in to DC and now I'm hooked, but now that I count as a regular reader it's my balls in the top drawer.  Why?  Because for the most part every story arc has to wrap up right on issue #12 so they can release a bunch of one-shots and then start new arcs from #13.  Some creative teams are ending on #12 anyway, some are clever enough to juggle their stories so it will feel natural enough.  Others just get a huge veiny zeroey penis slapped right in the middle of their story just for the hell of it though, and the book suffers because of it.  They did not need zero issues for every single title in the 52.  At least it'll be done and dusted in a month's time.

Not that it's all horrible, it just feels a little soulless. I've read a few, and here's a few thoughts.

Superboy #0   A curious and potentially pointless story is presented here as two shady characters at N.O.W.H.E.R.E., toothy demon thing Lord Harvest and his constantly-bleeding-from-the-eyes buddy Omen observe Superboy’s rebooted origin from a slightly different perspective.  This actually leans so heavily on Superboy #1 to fill it’s pages, I’m left feeling like a sucker for thinking the whole zero month idea might be more than a cheap gimmick.  Lord Harvest reveals himself to be the true puppet master of the cloning project and peppers his observations with recountings of the history of Kryptonian cloning and the subsequent violent uprising (though how he manages to be such an expert in the history of an extinct alien culture is lazily glossed over), additionally revealing his own subconscious programming of Superboy towards violent tendencies.  While this issue is aiming to set something up for the next year in this title I can’t say I’m excited or even intrigued in any way, and I’m seriously considering dropping Superboy altogether.  The title screwed me over this year by aggressively attempting to get me to pick up Teen Titans, and all #0 has done is given me an insight into future stories to potentially render them predictable.  And I liked it so much at the start.  Boo.

Batman #0  Two stories make up this issue.  The first by regular Batman team Snyder and Capullo serves up a Year One style account of Batman pre-suit setting himself up for his battle against crime and getting in a little too deep for his own good, infiltrating bank robbing bad guys The Red Hood Gang and almost eating a lead salad for his efforts.  This is an entertaining enough take on early Bruce Wayne that cuts off as it gets good with the frustrating footnote “the story continues in 2013!”.  For the second time tonight I’m struck with the glaring reality that DC’s zero month is a weird idea with hurried and unrewarding execution.  So on to the second story on offer, set a year later, titled “Tomorrow”, written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Andy Clarke.  This actually worked a little better for me, as it’s a self contained one shot that doesn’t try to be an important chapter, instead looking in on a bunch of characters that will figure heavily in the Gotham in years to follow.  Jim Gordon explains to Barbara Gordon the importance of the symbol of Batman to Gotham before turning on the Bat signal for the first time.  A young Dick Grayson acrobatically thwarts a purse snatcher.  Jason Todd gets a reality check while committing a robbery that goes too far.  And school-aged Tim Drake steals the show when he uses his technical talents to get his school principal arrested for embezzlement.  Despite the ages of the various future Robins being squished together here, I like what this went for.

Action Comics #0   Superstar scribe Grant Morrison teams with personal favourite and ex-Batwing painty-style artist Ben Oliver for this offering, and as the retelling of Superman’s origin was already covered in Action Comics #5, this story is set as Clark Kent is getting himself set up in Metropolis.  We know all this stuff already though, except for the part about Jimmy Olsen photographing women for a living pre-Daily Planet gig (and complaining about it!  Fuck you Jim, you don’t whinge about that job!).  Morrison isn’t really bringing his A-game here, but that’s okay when Ben Oliver is making a Superman comic look this good.  There’s actually not that much of Superman to show off, but cleverly the colour scheme ensures that when we do see red and blue it pounces off the page.  Today’s research turns up nothing confirmed about Oliver being retained for this book.  A shame, because his work seems so suited to the tone of what new 52 Action Comics wants to be, and should be.  Oh, then there’s some nonsensical crap story on the end, featuring no characters I’ve ever heard of, followed by a page explaining who Superman actually is, in case I’ve been in a coma for 80 years.

Green Arrow #0   Young Oliver Queen does exactly what anyone that rich and that young would do when put in charge of an oil rig: turn the whole thing in to a huge party and fly your friends in by helicopter.  But when pirates take advantage of the increased air traffic to slip past security and steal the oil, Ollie decides to take matters into his own hands.  Trouble is young Ollie is all will and only average skill.  His archery is far from the honed talent he is destined to develop and decisions are cocky…. with devastating results.  It seems few survive this day, including Oliver’s friend Tommy Merlyn, who seemingly dies covered in scarring burns in the water…. until waking up years later in a convent from a coma, and pissed off!  The thing I like about this particular zero issue is that it’s setting up a major enemy for Green Arrow in a story that’s probably not too far away, and from what I’ve seen so far, the zero issues that have managed to feel relevant are the one’s that are working.

Thanks kids.  Don't forget you can join my very un-spammy Facebook group here: or follow me on Twitter @ComicBurger.

Back with more zeroes soon.  But not all of them.  That would be just fucking stupid.